Riley hires Ruffin McNeill

New University of Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley has filled the vacant position on his staff by hiring Ruffin McNeill as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach.

McNeill, a former head coach at East Carolina while Riley was offensive coordinator there, comes to Norman from Virginia, where he served the 2016 season as assistant head coach and defensive line coach.

“I’m very excited that Ruffin McNeill is joining our coaching staff,” said Riley, who was named OU’s 22nd head coach after Bob Stoops retired. “Personally, I have a great history with him from our time together at Texas Tech and East Carolina. We’re getting an extremely high-quality person and coach. Our team and fans will love the personality and energy he’ll bring to our program.

“Ruffin possesses a distinguished record defensively, and I’m excited to see him work alongside defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and the rest of our staff on that side of the ball. I view the defensive line as one of the most important — if not the most important — position groups on the field, and he’ll be a big benefit to our student-athletes and to our program as a whole.”

Riley said Calvin Thibodeaux, who has spent the last two seasons as OU’s defensive line coach, will coach defensive ends.

“I had a great experience working for (head coach) Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia and really enjoyed that,” said McNeill. “Now having a chance to work for Lincoln, it’s a proud moment for me because I’m very proud of Lincoln. It’s an exciting moment as well. I’ve been in coaching a long time and I’m very honored to be joining the Oklahoma family. There’s obviously outstanding tradition here and I got to know Coach (Barry) Switzer very, very well. I’m extremely excited.”

Prior to East Carolina, McNeill spent 10 seasons at Texas Tech, where he first worked with Riley. During his time with the Red Raiders, McNeill coached linebackers (2000-02), special teams (2003-06) and defensive tackles (2007). He was Tech’s interim defensive coordinator in 2007 before being promoted full-time to the spot for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

McNeill concluded the 2009 campaign as the Red Raiders’ interim head coach by rallying No. 21 Texas Tech to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl with Riley making his debut as offensive play caller.

“I’ve been at every level and have done it a lot of different ways,” he began. “I’ve been fortunate to work with great people. I’ve had the big-picture view of a head coach, I’ve been a defensive coordinator and I’ve been a special teams coordinator, so I think I have some things I bring to the table. I absolutely love coaching the players. I love that part. I’m excited to do that here.”

Mike Stoops said he’s known McNeill for many years and is looking forward to collaborating on defensive schemes together.

“Ruffin brings a ton of experience to the defensive side of the ball, he’s very familiar with our league because of his time at Texas Tech and his knowledge will help us keep expanding what we’re doing. I’ve seen his work from afar and from coaching against him, and I appreciate his work ethic and the way he goes about his business. He’s a great person as well. He’ll be a great addition to our staff and I’m excited to work with him.”

McNeill echoed Stoops’ comments.

“Mike and I have known each other for quite a while, and in this business you kind of keep up with everyone,” said McNeill. “We kept up with each other, even during his Arizona days, just seeing how each other were doing and so forth, and Bob as well. And you obviously know coaches through competition.”